Root: a musical celebration of our beloved national verb
It’s not really a concept album, and their upcoming national mini-tour can’t really be labelled a musical, but the second release by the saucily-named Melbourne band Root! and the accompanying set of pub dates is one of the few innovative developments on our current musical landscape.
Self-described on their hysterically exhaustive Wikipedia entry as a cross between the Flying Burrito Brothers and The Fall, the most obvious way into understanding Root! is that lead singer DC Root used to be known as Humphrey B Flaubert, sharing the vocal duties with Ron “Hitler” Barassi in the legendary piss-taking rock band TISM, who almost went mainstream with tasteless ditties such as (He’ll Never Be An) Ol’ Man River and Greg! The Stop Sign.
It’s probably the last thing the band wants to read, this kind of Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson reminiscence about the past history of 20 per cent of its number - but the link I’d draw is hopefully a positive one, in that TISM produced songs which were lyrically hilarious and musically irritating, with their incessant electro synth sound, wheras Root! produce songs which are lyrically hilarious but actually rock.
Root! is a strange conglomeration. There’s five of them in the band, they’ve all taken “Root” as their stage surname, they wear cowboy hats and embroidered country shirts (a la Gram Parsons in the Burrito Brothers), but lead singer DC Root staggers about like a demented down under version of Fall frontman Mark E Smith, except, obviously, there’s none of the brooding Manchester darkness there - but weird poetry inspired by the bleaker aspects of our great suburban land and delivered in a thick Australian drawl.
You might have caught them on the ABC’s Spicks and Specks the other night where they played their modestly-sized hit “I Wish I was Tex Perkins” from album number one, entitled Root Supposed He Was Out of the Question.
The band’s second album Surface Paradise is an engagingly unusual record, in a kind of Avalanches way, in that it incorporates a lot of cool sampling on a number of tracks. The tracks are numbered along the lines of a Stevie Wright format - a la Evie Parts 1 to 327, or however many it was. But its backbone is the monologue-style lyrics of DC Root, who sounds a bit like the English punk poet John Cooper Clark as he rants about suburban emo wannabes with boring dayjobs who are depressed because they’re down at the pub wearing Mum’s eyeliner trying in vain to win Keno (the tune, Sort Of Emo, is subtitled “My Clerical Romance”). There’s an existential account of how there’s so much to do in Melbourne but everybody just goes to the Crown Casino. And an evocative description of the sheer thrill of being bailed up by a big-noting wanker at a pub on the track “I Hang Out with the Guys in Jet(‘s Uncle).”
Because many of the guys in the band, like many of us, are getting on a bit, there’s some irresistibly snide sniping at the Gen Y social media set too which is worth quoting here for the sheer irony of using a blog to take the piss out of blogging - “Joe Blogs, although he’s got nothing to say, he’s in a social network, why does he still feel like a jerk? Some girls have got one thousand friends. How does that work?”
If you’re up for a night of country-twanged lyrically innovative punk rock I suggest you take down these dates - Saturday September 12 Annandale Hotel, Sydney; Saturday September 19 Republic Bar, Hobart; Saturday September 26, Sounds of Spring Festival, Brisbane.
Surface Paradise is out now on Shock Records and you can read about the band at www.roottheband.com.au
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